|Villages in Iraq’s northern mountain areas have been shelled by Iranian forces since 2003[GALLO/GETTY]|
Iraqi MPs and politicians have accused the Baghdad government of tolerating an Iranian military campaign on Iraq’s northern territories.
They say the Iranian military has been bombing remote Iraqi Kurdish villages along the northern Iraq-Iran borders for months under the pretext that Iranian Kurdish rebels from the party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) are taking shelter there.
Hussain al-Jaff, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), told Al Jazeera: “The Kurdish people denounce the media blackout imposed on this topic. We really do not understand how the Iraqi government remains silent at bombing its own national soil.”
Mohamad al-Talabani, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in northern Iraq says the central government’s inaction has fuelled mounting feelings of bitterness and resenment among Iraqi Kurds.
“The People here are very upset … ordinary Kurds are questioning why there was swift rebuke of Turkey’s attacks on Kurdish activists in northern Iraq, but the world is now silent when Iran is doing the same thing,” he said.
Since 2006, Iranian forces have shelled the village of Haj Omran, 5km inside the Iraqi-Iranian, as well as Marado, Razda and Dolakoka townships.
Sami al-Askari, a Shia Arab MP from al-Islah al-Watani (National Reform) Movement told Al Jazeera Iraqi sovereignty must be excercised throughout the country.
“I cannot understand why the government has not raised this issue with Iran,” he said.
Kurdish sources have told Al Jazeera that some 200 villages located in the Qalat Dizza, Qandil and Himreen mountains, 120km south of Kirkuk and near the border with Iran, have been shelled since December 2007.
In April 2008, Iranian artillery fired at villages located in the Kinera, Sawen, and Mamenda mountains.
Iranian media reported at the time that a senior commander with an outlawed breakaway faction of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) had been killed in the shelling.
Iranian officials have told the media that they are pursuing “terrorists” belonging to several Kurdish separatists groups, including the PKK, inside Iraq.
In late April, Iranian and Turkish officials met in Ankara to hammer out an anti-terrorism policy geared towards combatting Kurdish groups in northern Iraq.
The Turkish military has been carrying out cross-border missions and air raids targeting the PKK inside Iraq since February 2008.
During the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) the northern strip of mountains, known as the Zagros range, nestled along the border was heavily shelled by both sides.
Following punitive sanctions slapped on Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the bombed villages could not be rebuilt and lacked vital infrastructure.
Al-Talabani says the continued shelling has halted any reconstruction projects that were initiated since 2003 and has forced many villagers to flee their homes to seek refuge in nearby Sulaimaniyah.
Al-Jaff says the government needs to immediately intervene and alleviate the plight of the Kurdish refugees.
“What really bothers the Kurds and various politicians is the government’s negligence towards the displaced and the destroyed infrastructure. Nothing whatsoever has been done for them. They are poor villagers; they work for their bread day by day,” he told Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera contacted Ali al-Dabagh, the Iraqi government spokesman, but his office said he was unavailable for comment.
Labid Abbawi, Iraq’s deputy foreign minister, told Al Jazeera he could not immediately provide comment on why the Iraqi government had not protested Iranian shelling in the north.
Dhafir al-Ani, a Sunni Arab MP from al-Tawafuq (the Accordance) bloc accused the ruling coalition of blocking efforts to raise the issue in parliament because of its close links to Iran.
“Those MPs representing Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and other parties close to Iran have used their influence to prevent this issue from being raised in the parliament,” he told Al Jazeera.
Hassan al-Sinaid, an MP from the Islamic Revolution in Iraq party, told Al Jazeera he declined to comment.